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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

Is Your Website Ready for a Record-Breaking Black Friday?

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, October 27, 2015

If you own a business that sells products online, you’ve got exactly one month to get your website ready for Black Friday. So before the ghosts and princesses start knocking at your door this weekend, grab a handful of those fun-size Snickers for yourself and take a look at your business website. Is it ready for the impending virtual rush?

Black Friday by the Numbers

November 2014 marked a tipping point for online shopping. For the first time ever, mobile traffic beat out desktop traffic on Thanksgiving Day. Measured at a whopping 52.1%, it accounted for a lion’s share of the visits.

Sales via mobile devices were also on the rise, capturing 29% of online sales on Thanksgiving Day and 27% on Black Friday. (View the official stats for yourself here.)

In 2015, the stage is set for mobile traffic to overtake desktop traffic on Thanksgiving Day for the second year in a row, and it is also poised to corner the market on Black Friday as well.

(For a more detailed explanation about how mobile devices and social media impact customers’ holiday purchasing choices, check out this webinar on the online holiday shopping forecast and trends for 2015.)

Percentages from Black Friday 2014
Desktop was still king in 2014, but mobile was not far behind. How will the stats for 2015 stack up? (Source: U.S. Retail Black Friday Report 2014)

How to Make the Most of Mobile

If you are an online retailer - particularly in the apparel, home goods, or health and beauty industries - you want to make sure your website is ready for mobile shoppers.

If your website is not yet mobile-friendly – what are you waiting for?! Hire a web developer to create a responsive e-commerce website for your business. Depending on how complex your site is, you might not have time to complete it before Thanksgiving, but in this case sooner is always better than later!

One way to ensure a successful website up front is to take the time to walk through your e-commerce process from your customer’s point of view. You may even want to hire someone to do user testing or ask a friend to run through the purchase process on your site. Whomever you choose, make sure that person is not as familiar with your site as you are.

While watching the person go through every step of the purchase process on your site, keep these questions in mind:

  • When searching for a product, is it easy to find? Are the product photos clear and accurate? Can they be enlarged easily?
  • If reading or writing product reviews, is it an easy process?
  • Are there any issues when adding items to the online shopping cart?
  • Do you have upselling techniques in place? Are they relevant?
  • Is the checkout process quick and easy?
  • Do you make it simple for customers to update their social sharing accounts after making a purchase?

Note any problem areas and ask your web developer to address them. Even small tweaks can have a huge impact on your customer’s user experience, so pay careful attention to how your test subject responds to your website.

Good News about Tablets...

In 2014, traffic from smartphone users was double the number of tablet users, BUT tablet users were more apt to actually buy and spend more than smartphone users, so...

Make sure your customers’ tablet experience is top-notch, as this is where they are most likely to spend money on your products.

Smooth Selling on Smartphones

To encourage more smartphone purchases, think like a smartphone user. Keep an eye out for any areas of friction on your site that might hinder the purchasing process. If you spot a potential problem, think about how you can remove that stumbling block or otherwise motivate smartphone visitors to move from a “just browsing” mentality to actually buying.

One common reason smartphone users may abandon your site before making a purchase is that your pages load too slowly on their phones. If that is the case, you would want to see how you can optimize your site for speed.

Another inherent drawback for mobile users is that the keyboards on smartphones are so small it makes the checkout process cumbersome. To minimize this, you could offer Paypal as a quick and easy checkout solution, so when customers make a purchase they don’t have to enter all of their billing information.

Of the smartphone users you do have, take special note of the breakdown by platform. In 2014, Apple users spent 4x as much as Android users over the Thanksgiving holiday. Does the same hold true for your website? If so, you know that iOS is the platfom you need to prioritize to bring the most profit.

To Thine Own Visitors Be True

Do you know how much of your traffic comes from mobile devices and what those devices are? If not, then this is a great time to review your analytics data, especially if you haven’t done so in a while. If you only have a few mobile visitors right now, then you won’t have the same sense of urgency as a site with higher mobile traffic, but take heed – your time will come!

Google Analytics is a handy – and free! – way to get information about who visits your site. Use it to determine how many mobile users visit your site and:

  • Which types of mobile devices they are using
  • How many visitors complete your sales goals (e.g., complete checkout)
  • What the bounce rate is for them
  • How long they stay on your site

Google Analytics has a lot of other nifty metrics specific to e-commerce that you can use to track visitor activity on your site, such as the revenue of a specified product based on demographics or traffic source. Use the above suggestions as a guide and then take some of the others out for a spin!

A Final Tip

If you are expecting a high volume of visitors on Black Friday, make sure your website can handle the additional traffic. One of the worst things that can happen is a sudden influx of visitors to your site with a server that does not have enough resources allocated to handle them. It could shut down your site! This is generally not a problem, but if you are in a shared server environment and are planning a mega-sale with a big promotional push, you’ll want to check with your web host/web developer to review your capabilities so you can bypass problems and give your customers the gift of an enjoyable holiday shopping experience.

A Wonderful Time of the Year

Google Analytics is a great tool, but it can’t measure everything that matters in life or business. This holiday season, don’t get too caught up in pulling in profit above all else. Your business should bring you joy all year long, not just when the virtual cash registers are ringing at year’s end. Take a moment to remember why you do what you do and be grateful for all that you have and all that you have accomplished this year.

Here’s to your Black Friday success!

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 12 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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